Nov. 8, 2020
Psalm 78:1-7, 8; Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Matt. 25:1-13
WE PURPOSE TO SERVE GOD BY SERVING OTHERS
History – a systematic narrative of past events and times. And we all know the narrative it’s not necessarily an accurate record in its totality. Historians must choose what to write in their books and what not to write. There always is a point of view. Let me give you an example: The Spanish Flue. Before the current pandemic I could not re-call what years it happened and falsely assumed its height to be in Spain. Wrong. It was in the years 1918-1920; what else was happening then? World War I, 1914- 1918. Allied countries had war time censors who covered up news of the flue to keep morale high.
Spanish newspapers were free to report the epidemic's effects in their neutral Spain, and thus the name Spanish Flue. I’m wondering if the Spanish flue history had been more ingrained in us, how would the current pandemic play out differently. We do place great emphasis on Remembrance Day, in just a few a few days, for a reason.
Lessons from history! Both passages today, Psalms and Joshua recall history and then challenged God’s people. I’m going to make a comparison between both passages following this outline: history lessons and the present challenge. And then I’m going to conclude with the challenge for us today by referring to a New Testament concept, because history keeps moving. However, the challenge for us in the 21st century remains the same as 1300 B.C. in times of Joshua.
“Give ear, to my teaching; I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us.” That sounds like a history lesson to me, for the purpose of teaching. We think of history in terms of factual indisputable events, yet the psalmist refers to stories of the ancestors as mysteries of ancient times and parables. There are hidden lessons from the past, they must be “dug out”, discovered, pondered and applied.
The Psalmist continues by making reference to the glorious deeds of the Lord and the wonders that He has done. In the mind of the Israel’s listener and in the context of the Book of Psalms it definitely is a reference to the Redemption story out of slavery, the crossing of the Red Sea, the journey in the wilderness. The psalmist continues by telling these stories and how stubborn they had been as a nation.
But the stories are told with a purpose “so that they should set their hope in God” It is to put one’s trust and confidence in God. I will add one more verse to today’s reading (verse ) “that they should not belike their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast”
The challenge was: (1) to trust God and (2) for their hearts to be loyal to God. Another version reads “give their hearts to God.” Paraphrasing; God had done so much for them, so please trust and hope in God, and love Him.
The narrative starts out pretty much the same way as Psalm 78, “Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor” And what are the stories Joshua re-calls? In first person as God speaking, “I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many”. Joshua continues with the wilderness experience, the crossing of the Jordan River and taking possession of the land. Abraham lived circa 2000 BC. The Exodus in one estimate was about 1400 B.C. or 1250 B.C. There is a span of approximate 600 to 800 years history. For us in 2020 is like going back to 13th 14th century in our history.
And just like there was a purpose in Ps. 78 in telling the story, why is Joshua also recalling history? “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” Another version reads “So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly” a reference to the heart –whole heartedly.
The paraphrase of Psalm 78:
God had done so much for them, so please trust God, and love Him.
A summary paraphrase of Joshua’s sermon: God has done so much for them, so please let’s serve God whole heartedly. “As for me and my household (family), we will serve the LORD.”
The title of my Homily is WE PURPOSE TO SERVE GOD
God has done so much for us. Christ has redeemed us (as pictured in the redemption stories of the Old Testament out of the slavery in Egypt; given provision in the desert, a new covenant). God has given us life. He sustains us. He is present with us. Our response is to serve God, whole heartedly.
And how do I serve God?
In the Old Testament times, just as today, through the cult system, by definition the system of religious practice in reference to rites, ceremonies, liturgy. But this falls short of serving God wholeheartedly. A prophet in those very same times puts out a challenge (Micah 6:7,8) Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Beyond our cult, we must do what is right and love.
At this point I want to make mention of a N.T. teaching which is a re-telling of an Old Testament concept. When asked by a teacher of the law what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself”. This commandment equal in importance. it is a quotation from the book of Leviticus (19:18), a book written as a manual of instructions for their cult, ceremonies and rites.
I conclude that to serve God whole heartedly is to love my neighbour. To love God is to love our fellow human being. Peterson paraphrases I Jn. 4:20 “The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both”.
So I’m adding to the homily title, WE PURPOSE TO SERVE GOD BY SERVING OTHERS
Also take note, “we purpose”. We all falter at times. Joshua told the people “you are not able to serve God”. We do not need a prophet to tell us of our own human frailty. The Gospel reading this morning on the Parable of the ten Bridesmaids makes reference how all ten bridesmaids had fallen asleep. However, while asleep they were prepared. Upon the call of arrival of the groom they woke up and could dip into the extra oil they brought for their lamps. Let us always be prepared.
Yes, we serve God by going to church to practice our liturgy (or connect via Zoom these days).
Yes, we serve God by our devotion to Him and devotional practices.
But no service to God is complete until we have served others. As we review history, biblical history and personal history He has done so much for us, He has been with us all the time; how will you love Him? How will you serve Him this week? What opportunities will you find to serve your family? Yourcommunity? Your Church? Your city?
May our actions, be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen